Recruitment agencies are invaluable for locating and managing participants for your UX research studies. They can be generalists or even specialize in recruiting hard-to-find types of participants, such as medical personnel, law enforcement officers, or any other profession or group of people meeting a particularly restrictive set of recruitment criteria. Their extensive experience and databases can often make difficult recruitments possible as long as they have the appropriate information and lead time for the planned sample size.
Here are three tips for a successful engagement with a recruitment agency.
- Clearly define who you are looking for.
Make sure that you have clearly spelled out the characteristics of your participants (inclusion criteria) as well as disqualifying characteristics (exclusion criteria) in an easy to digest format at the top of your screener. Don't make them hunt through the screener itself to understand the participant sample that you're looking for. Remember, they are likely busy with multiple studies besides your own, and the easier you can make their job, the less likely there's going to be a recruiting mistake that could blow out your study timeline or waste time by accidentally bringing in inappropriate candidates.
Make it as easy as possible to understand which criteria are must-haves, which criteria are nice to have (or flexible if the recruit is going poorly), and which should be represented by a mix across the population (often age or gender). Summary tables are useful as a quick reference at the top of the screener to make it absolutely clear what your sample size is, and the breakout of each particular subset of the population.
- Understand the process.
The better you understand how your recruiter works, the easier it will be to stay in sync with them for a smooth recruit. If you have a general understanding of their standard process, that helps you predict what requests might require more time or effort. Make sure the way they provide participant information aligns with the way that you need to receive it. Make sure that they are going to provide you with screener response information if that's something that you're expecting. You might expect that recruiters provide screening information on participants recruited for your study as a matter of course, but I have discovered that there are some who don’t provide it without explicit request at the start of the engagement. It was an unwelcome surprise, to say the least! That brings us to the last, and most importantly, the element of interacting with a recruitment agency.
- Communicate expectations
Always explicitly state your expectations up front, especially when working with a new recruiter for the first time. Have a short initial conversation with a recruiter to walk through the screener, no matter how simple and understandable you think it is, to avoid any possible misunderstandings. They might have questions about the criteria, or concerns about the timeline in relation to the difficulty of the recruitment. Take full advantage of their experience and knowledge to ensure your timeline is one they can be confident in fulfilling.
Make sure you have a clear point of contact, as well as one in a manager role, in case there are any questions that you need to resolve immediately. Define your expectations for how frequently they should provide updates on participant recruitment and screener information, whether you want them daily, bi-weekly or weekly. Spell them out at the beginning of the engagement to make sure everyone understands how the engagement should proceed.
With these three tips for working with a recruiter, your next study should be fully recruited with the right participants in no time at all.